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Ultraprocessed Food Consumption Linked to Cognitive Impairment, Stroke

Risk for cognitive impairment and stroke lower with intake of unprocessed, minimally processed foods

THURSDAY, May 23, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The levels of food processing is associated with cognitive impairment and stroke, according to a study published online May 22 in Neurology.

Varun M. Bhave, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined the associations between ultraprocessed foods (UPFs) and incident cognitive impairment and stroke. Items from a baseline food frequency questionnaire were categorized according to level of processing. In addition, scores quantifying adherence to a Mediterranean, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet were calculated.

The cognitive impairment cohort included 14,175 individuals without evidence of impairment at baseline, and the stroke cohort included 20,243 individuals without a history of stroke. The researchers found that a 10 percent increase in relative intake of UPFs was associated with a higher risk for cognitive impairment (hazard ratio [HR], 1.16), while a lower risk for cognitive impairment was seen with intake of unprocessed or minimally processed foods (HR, 0.88). Similar associations were seen for stroke. The effect of UPFs on stroke risk was higher for Black than White individuals (UPF by race interaction HR, 1.15). The associations between UPFs and cognitive impairment and stroke were independent of dietary pattern adherence.

"Our findings support the hypothesis that the degree of food processing plays an important role in overall brain health and provides complementary information to other recommended dietary patterns, including the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets," the authors write.

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